A Honeyed Light
by Freddie Milano Genre: M/M Paranormal Romance
Kunal, relative newcomer to the strange town of Harmony, has his hands full preparing for Diwali. That should be enough to keep anyone's mind preoccupied, but Kunal can't really ignore that he's nearly thirty, single, and still buried in the closet.
Out of town at a gay club one night, he bumps into Oscar, proprietor of Harmony's only sex shop, and figures his secret is now officially out. What he doesn't expect is a slow seduction, or to have to decide what it is he really wants in life.
When the first pretty-boy blond came over his way, Kunal tightened his hand around his drink and shook his head. "No, thanks, I'm meeting someone." The lie slipped out easily, but it didn't work as expected.
The young man introduced himself as Drew, smiled wider, and leaned closer. "Three's company."
"Sorry," he replied, his voice tight. "Not into that."
Drew shrugged and walked away, tossing a "your loss," over his shoulder. Kunal tuned back to his drink, wondering why he'd bothered to come out tonight if he was just going to turn down sure things and waste money on alcohol.
He decided to call it an early night. After paying his tab, he got up to leave, vacating his seat at the bar to the man who'd just approached. "All yours," Kunal said. "I was just leaving."
"Well, that's a shame. Here I was about to ask to buy you a drink."
Kunal paused to look at who was speaking and froze. He was right. It was just a matter of time before he ran into someone he knew. Someone from Harmony. Someone who could recognize him. Dammit, the reason he came here was so he wouldn't run into people from Harmony. So of course, not only did he bump into someone he knew, it had to be Oscar Murro, local proprietor of things Kunal couldn't even begin to mention. It wasn't as though he'd even been in Oscar's shop, but he knew what was sold there. And he knew who Oscar Murro was. In a town like Harmony, some people stood out.
Oscar was not just the sole Filipino man in Harmony, he was also one of the most attractive men in town, period. Kunal had noticed, and now he was worried Oscar had noticed him noticing.
Oscar blinked as the guy turned around. He'd seen him from behind and liked what he saw. There was something familiar about the bit of profile he could see, but he didn't expect to recognize the guy when he turned around. He didn't expect it to be Kunal Sadaram, of all people. He didn't bother to ask the obvious question—what Kunal was doing here. He had the same reasons Oscar did. So instead of calling attention to the surprise, Oscar just smiled. "So is that a yes or a no?"
Kunal swallowed, his eyes a little wild. "Yes or no?"
"The drink. Yes or no?"
Kunal's eyes widened, panic in them. "I was just leaving," he repeated, moving to sidestep Oscar.
"So that's a no? Shame. I never get a chance to talk to you in town."
Kunal stopped in his tracks, turning back to look at Oscar. "Uh, about that…"
Oscar nodded. "I know. You don't want anyone in Harmony knowing you were here. Kunal, you know what kind of shop I run, right? I know how to keep secrets."
Kunal exhaled. "Thank you. But uh, I really am heading out. Thanks for the offer but…" Kunal trailed off, and without finishing his sentence, slipped into the crowd.
Oscar watched his retreat with a thoughtful expression then shrugged. Kunal's presence confirmed something Oscar had already suspected—hell he'd even speculated-slash- hoped with Olli, when he'd first noticed the handsome new addition to Harmony—but it had still been a surprise to see him here at all.
But it also confirmed something else: Kunal Sadaram was deep in the closet, and it didn't seem like he was ready to let anyone in Harmony know.
Freddie Milano lives with her partner-in-crime, two adorable and devilish cats, and far more ideas than she really has time to set down on (electronic) paper. She’s been writing since she could hold a pen, though most of the embarrassing stories thankfully never made in onto the internet, and can stay safely buried.
She loves wine, Korean pop music, tea, chocolate, coffee, mythology, and both video and tabletop gaming. An ESFJ surrounded by introverts, Freddie has learned the art of socialization in moderation. Besides, staying in just leaves her more time to write.
How did you come up with the town of Harmony?
Harmony was actually a group effort. My two friends, to whom A Honeyed Light is dedicated, were instrumental in coming up with this small haunted town in Virginia that was home to an eclectic group of people, as well as the ghosts of those who came before. Each of us has a hand in some of the background characters, the ghost stories, and the way Harmony came together. You'll find out more about Harmony as the series continues, so I don't want to give too much away now!
When creating a character, do you come up with the visual concept or the written concept first?
It depends. Sometimes I visualize a character -I see a face I really want to write about and I build around that. But sometimes I have a solid idea of a plot and then need to figure out what character would fit in there. So really it's the chicken AND the egg.
Kunal was one of those that the written concept came up first. I wanted to write about the holiday of Diwali for a collection from Less Than Three Press, because I didn't want the collection dominated by Christmas stories. So then I decided to write about this Indian-American character struggling with his sexuality in this weird haunted town, just trying to celebrate his birthday and his favorite holiday. After I got his concept nailed down, I went looking for visual representation.
Enter: Shahid Kapoor
Which character is your guilty pleasure? I'm going to have to go with Olli. She's fun and spunky and doesn't really care too much what people think of her. She's got a lot of qualities I like to think I have, or that I wish I had. But honestly, I just think she's fun to hang around with. And she's super fun to write!
Plotter or pantser? Plotter. I outline, I write character profiles, I find pictures, I do a ton of planning. But that's not to say that what I outline is what winds up happening. I leave wiggle room because sometimes these dang characters have a life of their own and stuff happens I wasn't expecting that works better than my planned outline. I did stick pretty close to my outline for A Honeyed Light though.
Is there anything you really wish you could do, character-design-wise, that you feel is outside your current skillset? Yoooo, I wish I could cook like Kunal. He is really good at it and has been doing it his whole life. He also enjoys it way more than I do. I just want to be able to have gulab anytime I want to be honest.